Live discussion: The future of the Health and Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partnership Programme



This live discussion on the future of the Health and Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partnership Programme (HCVSSP Programme) forms part of the VCSE Review and took place on 17 September 2015.


The Health and Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partnership Programme invests in VCSE organisations working at a national level, by enabling them to work in equal partnership with the Department of Health (DH), NHS England and Public Health England (PHE).

It allows each organisation to demonstrate leadership and innovation, to reflect the views of their members and networks and support the development of knowledge and capability in the sector to engage in the wider health and social care reform agenda.

Discussion points

This discussion was focussed around two key aspects of the HCVSSP Programme.

  • How we can ensure that strategic partners are representative of the wider sector. This will includes questions about the number of strategic partners, whether they can be consortia or just individual organisations and ensuring a good spread of thematic and geographical expertise.
  • How strategic partners, once selected, can best act as a conduit for the views of the wider sector. This covers issues such as effective communication, accountability and transparency.


Howard Chapman, Department of Health

Howard works in the Department of Health’s Voluntary Sector Partnership Team, ensuring that the potential of voluntary sector organisations to improve health and wellbeing outcomes is realised. This includes management of the HCVSSP Programme and working in close partnership with 22 Health and Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partners to ensure that the voice of the voluntary sector is able to influence health and care policy development.

Jabeer Butt, Race Equality Foundation

Jabeer is deputy chief executive at the Race Equality Foundation where he has gained an international reputation for the use of evidence in developing interventions that help overcome discrimination and disadvantage. He leads the work of the foundation to increase the use of evidence in developing better health and housing support, as well as the foundation’s work on better engagement of the third sector by the Department of Health’s strategic partners programme.

Questions and answers

You can see all of the questions and comments from the live discussion in the comment section below. Feel free to add your own comments now if you have them.


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Nick Davies Nick was NCVO's public services manager until March 2017. He is also a trustee of the South London Relief in Sickness Fund.

66 Responses to Live discussion: The future of the Health and Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partnership Programme

  1. David Buck says:

    Unfortunately i will not be able to join you on Thursday. But my line of questioning is as follows. Given the strong relationship between socio-economic disadvantange and inequalities in heath (both directly and through interaction with other equality lenses), should the strategic partner programme seek to include a partner with a direct concern and remit to focus on socio-economic disadvantage? Are the current array of partners best suited to do that, and if so, are they doing it adequately?

    • Howard Chapman says:

      A list of strategic partners can be found here:

      Add to this the Health, Work and Wellbeing Group joined the Programme later.

      Inequalities including (socio-economic disadvantage)is a one of the key themes of the programme – led by designated theme leads, who are driving activities and projects in this area.

    • Jabeer Butt says:

      The persistence of inequality and health inequalities (documented by Sir Michael Marmott and others) does clearly require concerted and coordinated action. In my view the Strategic Partners Programme as a whole as well as the activities of some of the partners has ensured that the process of change that the health and social care services are going through does pay some attention to these challenges. Some of the changes that have been achieved are welcome, the new funding formula for Clinical Commissioning Groups announce in December 2013 is perhaps one with attention to ensure funding better reflects the need to address health inequalities in an area.

  2. Dan Sumners says:

    What is/are the main driver/s for this review at this time?

    What approach to representation has been most effective in the past, for this and other strategic partner programmes?

    How effective has the programme been so far? What has been most effective and to what extent is it a result of the system of representation?


    Members should ideally be consortia or national membership organisations. That way the membership stays manageable but more of the sector is represented. Members should be offered assistance (by other members, consortia and partners) with consulting their members/beneficiaries etc if needed.

    The programme should not try to exert too much control over how partners represent their members/beneficiaries etc. There needs to be an element of trust that they know how to consult – and do – in the most effective way. But they should report back about their engagement activities.

  3. Dan Hopewell says:

    How do we access the live discussion? Is there a link or a dial in number and code?

    • Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

      Hi Dan, the discussion will take place here, in the comments. There is no dial in number or code. Just visit this web page tomorrow at 9.30 and join the discussion. Thanks

  4. Dear Panel,

    I head a small health initiative which i set up in 2010 thst offers free health checks ( blood pressure /diabetes/cholesterol/obesity/atrial fibrillation for stroke, mouth cancer and dementia at cricket matches across the country. We perform upto free 60 health MOT’s per game each lasting 15 minutes. The feedback from users has been extremely positive with 100% satisfaction on the family and friends test. We are working with a number of cricket venues including the Oval, Lord’s, Edgbaston, Old Trafford, Headingly and SWALEC providing health checks at a number of high profile matches such as the Ashes. We have identified significant CVD risk factors in those attending and feel this service can really augment the current NHS health checks which are having a limited uptake in some areas. Given the nature of the game cricket is a perfect vehicle to promote health. It has the advantage of offering health checks out of hours when GP practices are closed and it also has a very large following from ethnic minority groups where the prevalence of CVD risk factors is high. Although the potential benefits to the NHS is enormous we have struggled to engage with local CCG’s for support or resources to build this initiative. We believe sports stadia are currently being under utilised as vehicles to deliver health initiatives and this area needs to be tapped into as it could be cost effective and support NHS policy to improve uptake of NHS health checks and offer effective sign posting. There is an urgent need for pathways whereby small voluntary organisations who are delivering health activities can get access to central support.

    Dr Chet Trivedy BDS FDS RCS (Eng) MBBS PhD MCEM MFMLM
    Founder Boundaries For Life

  5. Jabeer Butt says:

    Hello everyone

    Looking forward to discussion.


  6. How does the partnership ensure views are heard from people with lived experience of ill-health & other issues? While voluntary sector will undoubtedly champion these issues, are people with lived experience encouraged to speak directly to the partnership?

    • Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

      That’s a great question Neil. Perhaps the panellists could offer their thoughts.

      Neil – do you have any suggestions for how the partners could do this?

      • Howard Chapman says:

        Strategic partners do through their memberships and broad networks represent service users and individuals with lived experiences and do champion their issues and bring their voices to policy makers.

      • Jabeer Butt says:

        Lived experience is at the heart of a number of Strategic Partners’s involvement in the programme. The Race Equality Foundation has attempted to ensure that this experience impacts on policy by holding a number of regional events where those involved in developing and implementing policy at Department of Health, NHS England as well as Public Health England have had an opportunity to have direct conversations with those using services as well as their supporters. Most recently Strategic Partners have worked with the NHS Equality and Diversity Council to change the way it operates too. We have supported an initiative led by a group of service users from the North West with the Equalities and Health Inequalities team to improve representation on the EDC as well as ensure the EDC will be co-chaired by Simon Stevens and a service user. However, there is still more to do and your thoughts are welcome.

    • Barney Mynott, NAVCA says:

      I should start by saying that NAVCA are one of the strategic partners.

      This is a really important point and the partners so ensure this is the case. The Win win alliance (sorry not sure how to do linsk but you can cut and paste this in a browser) are evangelical about this and never miss an opportunity to ensure that we always focus on users and user-led solutions. National Voices (another partner) are also very strong on this and bringing people’s direct experiences to the partnership.

      That isn’t to say that the other partners don’t also make sure we do this. The breadth and reach of the partners is one of its real strengths. Although policy makers can pigeon-hole the voluntary sector as a homogenous thing, this partnership is really good at bringing out the full range of voluntary sector organisations, people and experience.

  7. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    Thanks for joining us today for this live discussion about the Strategic Partner Programme run by the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England. We’re joined by Howard Chapman from the Department of Health and Jabeer Butt from the Race Equality Foundation (which is currently a strategic partner).

    I’d like to kick things off with a discussion about the aims of a future Strategic Partner Programme. Following an initial consultation with the sector and other partners earlier this year we propose three aims:
    1. Supporting the delivery of relevant health and social care policies (e.g. the Five Year Forward View and the Care Act 2014) so that they embed equality and reduce health inequalities.
    2. Ensuring a strategic approach to engagement and co-production between the VCSE sector and system partners to realise benefits for communities, and increase capacity and sustainability within the VCSE sector.
    3. Providing a route to bring the voices of citizens and communities into national health and social care policymaking in England and influence how that policy delivers what matters most to them.

    Perhaps panellists could explain the thinking behind these aims.

    I’d also like to hear what others think of these aims. Do you agree with the list? If not, what would you change and why?

    • Is there consensus on which aspects of Care Act will be implemented across localities, now that many parts of implementation have been shelved?

      • Howard Chapman says:

        One of the strengths of the partnership is that partners do have a direct link to policy teams. Within the partnership their is a Care and Support Group working closely with the Care Act Team in DH to ensure that the partners direct their activities to those areas of the care act where they can have mist impact. Jabeer sits on that group and can say more.

        • Thanks it would be good to know where I can get more info on this. My research is looking at volutary sector support for older people. We’re trying to understand which assessments are required by Care Act, and how voluntary organisations can complement & benefit from the information generated (eg data sharing).

        • Jabeer Butt says:

          Social care has been a focus of a number of the Strategic Partners from the inception of the programme. Many of us agitated about the limited attention paid to social care and responded positively and intensively in the development as well as the passing of the Social Care Act. We have since been working to ensure that our sister organisations in the voluntary sector better understand the Act and their role. At the same time we have been working with statutory partners through initiatives such as Think Local Act Personal to support high quality implementation. However, ensuring social care as well as the Social Care Act gets the attention and support it requires continues to be a challenge. At the sametime, how it ensures that the changes it engenders lead to greater choice and control for those needing and accessing support still requires attention. This has to be accompanied by attention to the challenges for voluntary and community organisations involved in providing support.

  8. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    Remember to keep refreshing the page to see new comments.

  9. Howard Chapman says:

    These aims will ensure that a future programme continues to deliver its benefits and have a greater impact as it seeks to support the Governments priorities for health and care. I’d add to these the need to continue to build the capacity and capability of the sector to respond to priorities.

    • There is such cynicism at the moment from the public who access services, and from voluntary sector, due to cuts there is less and less capacity – so is it realistic to talk about ‘building capacity’?

      • Howard Chapman says:

        I certainly think so. The need for capacity building is important as the sector gets to grips with a changing and challenging health and care landscape.

      • Barney Mynott, NAVCA says:

        I get a bit tired of being told there is no money. There may be less but there is still money – we are a relatively rich country. Next year the Government will spend £759.5bn.

        We will fail if we just try to do the same things but with less money. I believe that voluntary organisations can help transform public services. Not so they are cheaper but so they are better for the people receiving them.

        We excel at delivering people centred care and helping prevent further problems. This will save money – but more importantly improve lives.

        A lot of capacity building is about changing the minds of commissioners to get this. But also it is about helping voluntary sector groups (esp smaller ones) be in a position to be able to be involved.

        • I completely agree (we’re a strategic partner by the way). A lot of our work is about up-skilling small groups to engage with the health system. For example, like the cricket example mentioned, we know of faith groups who would really like to run health checks in their settings but simply don’t know who to pick up the phone to, in order to arrange these things. There’s huge potential in the sector – it’s about taking a strategic approach to be able to tap into it.

        • I’d like to hear you explain “I get a bit tired of being told there is no money” to someone who has had their benefits cut, or can no longer access a service which is important to their independence and wellbeing.

        • Jabeer Butt says:

          Prevention works, but it also costs and I think you have highlighted a key problem that has to be addressed. It is important that commissioners and others need to get better at investing in prevention and part of the change required is to recognise the pay off is over the long term.

          • Social care has been cut, prevention and public health has been cut, NHS is held steady despite rising needs. Surely voluntary partnership have role in voicing public concerns on these cuts? & divergence of rhetoric from reality (eg 24/7 NHS care)

      • Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

        What do others think about whether the programme should support capacity building and sustainability of infrastructure organisations within the VCSE sector?

        • Mark Freeman says:

          I am biased as I work for a local infrastructure organisation, but there is a need to help organisations like ours to engage with the whole agenda around health and wellbeing. This is not just about money but about ensuring that we have the information to argue for change. Not all health authorities are as open to VCS involvement and many face different issues, we for example work in an area with significant financial issues. Our members who are generally very small have not got the time or the inclination to be involved and they rely on us, in turn our funding has been reduced and the need for more specialist knowledge has increased – we struggle at times even working in partnership with others.

          • Howard Chapman says:

            I appreciate the challenges that you face. Amongst the current strategic partners there are organisations (Regional Voices and NAVCA)who can help with sharing knowledge, information and expertise. But, how we support smaller organisations is key and we must ensure that the review picks these issues up.

  10. Representation of the community of interest in h&sc in the list of strategic partners suggests that there could be more scope for those running the programme to make more specific invitations and approaches to consortia and organisations representing specific interests (just as we outreach to our beneficiaries and customers) rather than wait for them to apply to become a partner. or if this has happened what have been the reasons for choosing not to join the Partnership?

    • Howard Chapman says:

      All sections of the sector were able to apply. We did focus on the need for partners to have a broad reach across the country which may have limited some organisations from applying.

      • Howard Chapman says:

        Its worth pointing out that the programme is only one way in which system partners work with the sector. Policy and programme teams will have their own specific relationships with organisations not represented on the programme.

    • Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

      Thanks Jacqueline. Do you think the programme should contribute to evidence gathering about relevant issues and current trends in the VCSE sector?

      • Nick, yes, I do think evidence gathering and sharing could be a way of building capacity/realising potential. The umbrella organisations do a great job in their contribution to this but todays comments suggest there is greater scope. Learning from each other and sharing knowledge, breaking down information and expertise barriers and working cooperatively will mean users get better more equal services, and commissioners open minds and understanding to new solutions…

  11. Zoe Matthews says:

    Good Morning Jabeer, Howard, Nick and others

    I think that it is vital that we continue support with the Health Inclusion Programme and believe that there is the possibility for much more joined up work on this programme. Health inequalities are growing and yet resources at the bottom are less than ever, therefore we need more collaborative working.

    I think that small organisations should be included as strategic partners, providing that they can demonstrate they are working in partnership with other organisations. For example; I work with Gypsies, Roma and Travellers who experience some of the worst inequalities in the UK, there are many factors that contribute to this stark factor, including homelessness, racism, poor access to health care, lack of opportunities for employment and education. These are all issues which will resonate with other marginalised groups. However, under localism, Gypsies and Travellers represent a small minority of people and are often neglected in needs assessments, in turn this means that they are often not included in JSNAs and subsequent commissioning strategies. Locally we are also competing with other small organisations working on these issues, but with their own community of interest. This may lead to work programmes and charter marks being developed in isolation, often duplicating work.
    If some of these smaller organisations were encouraged and supported to work collaboratively, it would be better value and more significantly start to address the intersectionality of issues. We know that the social determinants of health are a main factor in creating inequalities. I believe that the third sector needs to be supported to work to process, challenge and find solutions for some of these wider issues.
    It is both easy and tempting to fund the larger, more general organisations as strategic partners, but this ends up reproducing the status quo….ie smaller groups are squeezed out or lose funding, meaning that they cannot even participate in the wider discussions. I say that as a worker of 15 years with FFT who is currently unfunded. The only reason I can participate now is because the charity is using reserves to fund me!

    • Howard Chapman says:

      This is an important issue and one that we should be looking at through the review.

    • Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

      Thanks for joining us Zoe. You’ve hit on the key question of which organisations are selected as strategic partners. There are currently 22 partners, comprising both individual organisations and 7 consortia (circa 75 organisations are represented on the partnership in total through consortia).

      Is this a suitable number? Should there be more or fewer?

      Should the programme include consortia partners (a group of organisations working together through a single grant to achieve common aims)?

      Should partners be selected based on the communities they connect with and their reach into the VCSE sector (e.g. not representing sole health conditions)?

      • Howard Chapman says:

        Very interested to hear what people think.

        • Howard Chapman says:

          Although having a large number of partners, many of whom are consortia, increases reach, there is the argument that it can be harder to manage and might lack some focus. Swings and roundabouts.

          • Karina Russell says:

            That’s a good point, with 75 organisations in total represented, how do you ensure all of their voices are heard and evenly weighted?

      • Beth Hacche says:

        How can local groups be represented in the strategic partnership? Is it feasible for local organisations or community organisations to actively participate through consortia partners?

        • Howard Chapman says:

          The Strategic Partners should be an avenue through which local organisations can get their voices heard. Perhaps we haven’t done enough to promote this. However, Regional Voices and NAVCA do this.

          • Barney Mynott, NAVCA says:

            NAVCA always try to make sure the experiences of smaller groups are heard.

            It is important to recognise that the partners are a mix of organisations. There are some fairly small organisations as partners so some of us have a real understanding of the issues smaller organisations face.

    • Jabeer Butt says:

      Effectively supporting a range minorities within minorities as well as support for local groups doing critical work that does not attract support from local decision makers are some of the challenges that need to be addressed by this review. My view is that this is further evidence on the need for a grants programme alongside the Strategic Partners programme. But also that the review has see how local commissioning can be improved to ensure that communities such as Travellers and those who support them get a share of the resources.

  12. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    The other key issue I’d like to look at is communication and accountability. How successfully have existing partners communicated the benefits and impact of their contribution to the wider VCSE sector? How could we ensure that communication is even better in a future programme?

    • Howard Chapman says:

      Interested to hear what any strategic partners online have to say.

      • Howard Chapman says:

        Obviously all 22 partners have their own memberships and networks who will be well aware of the value of programme, but interested how people think they could better extend reach beyond that.

      • Barney Mynott, NAVCA says:

        I would say that proving the partnerships effectiveness shouldn’t be the point of communications. Glossy leaflets saying how great we are will help no-one.

        Our communications should (and hopefully in a small way NAVCA have had some success with this) be about increasing the information flow between voluntary organisations and decision makers. It should mean that decision makers are better informed (so they make better decisions) and voluntary organisations are better involved in improving people’s well being.

        • Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

          How do you think that the programme could ensure that partners are representing views of the sector appropriately and that the sector can hold partners to account?

          • Mark Freeman says:

            Not sure it is about holding them to account. I want help to do my job better and better support my members, if they don’t provide that in some way I will simply walk away and look elsewhere.

      • Jabeer Butt says:

        At the Foundation communication about our role as an SP as well as the work of the programme as a whole has always been an attempt to have a conversation with our sister organisations working in and around race equality. Regular electronic communication has been accompanied by specific face to face activity through local and regional events as well as national conference on specific issues. This has been augmented by signposting DH, NHS and PHE colleagues to sister organisations or facilitating direct discussions. Furthermore, we use the other networks we are involved in to share information about the SP programme. So the Foundation is part of Coalition for Race Equality organisations and we regularly share information through that network too.

    • Mark Freeman says:

      With a couple of exceptions I have not heard from any of the partners. Even when I do hear I am generally being talked to and informed rather than taking part in a conversation. One of the partners I have heard from over the years and who have been able to look at more local issues, regional voices, seem to be falling apart with our regional body having disappeared a while ago and the replacement, who never really worked that much where we are due to close.
      I think that there is an issue about accountability and ensuring a better voice, this however is not easy and simply making the number of partners bigger would probably not help as it would become unworkable. I wonder if a joint communication method that all partners fed into would be best, this would mean that there was one place to find info and one place to raise concerns that could be directed to those best placed to act on them.

      • Howard Chapman says:

        Another important point. NAVCA and others are working on a comms strategy. Barney – perhaps you could say more.

      • Barney Mynott, NAVCA says:

        I would urge against having one communication method. A strength of our sector is the multitude of voices, opinions, ideas and thoughts.

        I know this can be messy but it is preferable to tidy straight lines of communications that miss many out.

        I think we also need to consider the voices of those who may not put themselves forwards or willingly share their views (or just not have the time).

        I think that this partnership can be a good counter balance to a lot of the usual voices that Governments and civil servants may be more comfortable talking to.

        • Mark Freeman says:

          Not sure it about one communication method, I understand the fact that people prefer different methods, for me it is about a single strategy that all partners feed into and then disseminate through their usual channels. This cuts down the work of picking through multiple feeds. There is a role for information to be disseminated and this will happen with those who want to take part doing so through their preferred method. I don’t want straight lines that exclude people but one really wriggly line that touches everyone that means we can all benefit from all the partners work/experience.

    • Perhaps Strategic Partners agreements could include outputs around communicating with the wider VCS, embed their responsibility to do this into the Programme. All the usual communications routes, some suit some better than others….open websites that dont rely on membership, newletters, good old fashioned face to face conferences (and face to face networking) e-networks etc etc. But also be inetersting to see hpw this is also beig done for our statutory partnets…they need to have the learning delivered to them too. Can still feel like the VCS has to keep explaining to our statutory colleagues what we can deliver.

      • Howard Chapman says:

        This is a requirement. All of the partners have their own newsletters, e-bulletins and run events for the sector routinely. But, it sounds as if they should be doing a lot more.

        With regard to communicating with statutory partners – this is happening and it does feel that the message is getting through (maybe slowly).

  13. Zoe Matthews says:

    Should the programme include consortia partners (a group of organisations working together through a single grant to achieve common aims)?

    I think that this would be valuable, particularly to focus on some of the common aims.

    Should partners be selected based on the communities they connect with and their reach into the VCSE sector (e.g. not representing sole health conditions)?

    Absolutely, we are people first and for some communities the main issue is not the health condition as such, which might ordinarily be managed, but rather multiple factors which conspire to reinforce the inequity they experience, which is not conducive to good health. I keep talking about Inclusion Health, which I feel passionately deserves more resources and attention. Communities and groups who on their own may not amount to large groups of numbers but are none the less costing the NHS and society a lot of money picking up the pieces when they are in crisis. The organisations working with these communities are dealing with multiple and complex need and they do need resources to do this work, but strategically, they need to be able to work together on the issues. Perhaps we need to create small pots which contribute to core costs for these small charities but with ring-fenced money for collaborative working on the issues, such as creating a charter for Inclusion for all CCGs. The alternative is funding one charity who creates a charter in their area of speciality and then roles this out… the danger being that the CCG picks it up and focuses on that issue at the expense of the others, as in as a Director of Public Health i have picked my 3 areas of Inequality to address, ticked my boxes and the other communities are ignored or relegated to the sidelines.

    Sorry, that was a long way of saying yes people should be picked based on who they can reach, but yes they need consortia to work together. Gypsies, Roma and Travellers may not outwardly seem to have much in common with groups working with FGM or Trans issues, but having worked with some of these groups, many of the issues are very similar.

    • Barney Mynott, NAVCA says:

      This is a really important issue. the partnership is not just about health charities because everybody has an interest in health and well being.

  14. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    We’re now into the last 10 minutes of the discussion. If you’ve got any more thoughts about any of the issues above please post a comment.

    You will also be able to post a comment after the discussion closes (though it may take a little longer to receive a reply).


    • Perhaps repeating myself a little here but I would urge a more assertive, outreaching approach from those running and participating in the Programme. This discussion has provided evidence that it is not enough to make information available…it has to be targeted and delivered. We all know this from service delivery principles especially when tackling inequalities. We only subscribe to an e-newletter if we know about it and can access it, true of anything. Participants in the programme should be resourced to actively communicate learning (and learn more) and to be accountable for doing this assertively and using two way conversations. Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to this today.

  15. Nick Davies Nick Davies says:

    Thanks to everyone who has joined us today, particularly our panellists Howard and Jabeer.

    We’ve received some really thoughtful comments which will directly inform the conclusions of this review.

    For more information about how you can comment on the remaining issues in the review please visit our website –